Wednesday, April 29

Running on Empty

The magical wonders of Facebook have recently put me back in touch with so many old friends from my home town. I've had so much fun catching up with folks who I would likely never spoken to again. As it turns out, one of those friends is a fellow runner. He's a relative newcomer to the sport, while I now consider myself a well-seasoned junkie, having been running (on and off) for nearly half of my life now (don't even THINK of asking my age...).
This friend of mine suggested that I read this book about an ultramarathon runner named Dean Karnazes. The book is called Ultra Marathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner. Now, for your information, an ultramarathon is, technically, any distance longer than a Marathon (26.2 miles).

Now, just so you know, the Marathon got it's name waaaayyyy back in ancient Greece when Pheidippiedes, a Greek soldier, was sent from the town of Marathon, Greece, 26.2 miles away to Athens to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated in the Battle of Marathon. Yay! However, Pheidippiedes croaked soon after he delivered his message. Booo!
Enter into the drama: all sorts of crazy folks from all over the world trying to accomplish Pheidippides feat, without dying at the end. I can say that I am one of those looney toons with a (yes, only one, so far) successful marathon finish to my name. I trained for and completed the Richmond Marathon (don't ask my time either... that's as bad as asking a lady's age, for goodness sake!) in 2004. I didn't think I ever wanted to run another Marathon again... but Karnazes' book got me to thinking.
Dean Karnazes is a man who takes himself to the very edges of human possibility, essentially, just to see how far he can go. Finishing a race, whether it is a 100-miler through the hottest dessert or a Marathon to the South Pole in conditions no human has ever successfully endured, is paramount over the mileage, the injuries, the delusions, the sacrifice or the prize. To quote him, he runs with his heart.
This book was a quick, easy read. Karnazes is not unusual in his quest to see just how far he can go. (I even have a personal friend who professionally races double and triple Ironman races... read about him here...) There are lots more (okay... some more) guys out there with just as much heart, guts and strength. But what I find remarkable about Dean Karnazes is that despite his accolades and triumphs (he often places close to the top of races he enters) the focus of the book isn't how great he is and how many times he finished in the top five. The focus is on the triumph of one individual over his own demons.
And that, my friends, stirs the demons in my own soul... perhaps there IS another Marathon in my future. (And thanks to Doug Elser for the great suggestion... let me know what your suggestion is!

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